Robbins: New laws for the new year
Sometimes, the most obvious of things escape our notice. For example, our elected lawmakers are … um … elected to make laws. And like the predictable bloom of flowers bursting forth in spring, with the turn of every new year comes a blossom of new laws.
At least some of this year’s flowering of new state laws will almost certainly affect you. Not surprisingly, at least some of them will reach into your pocket. In abbreviated form, some of the more interesting and/or consequential ones go like this:
With the start of the new year, so too begins the state’s 2022-23 budget. There’s nothing particularly new or exciting there. However, notable among the $3.64 billion in spending to cover expenses for state government is a 3% raise of state employees; a 33% increase in health care spending, up $1.02 billion; and 15% more ($26 million for public safety).
Major portions of HB22-1326 will also go into effect. That bill attempts to deal with the burgeoning fentanyl crisis. Included in the new provisions are new law enforcement reporting requirements, new reporting requirements that will be incumbent upon district attorneys, new felony penalties for possession of 1-4 grams of fentanyl or fentanyl-containing compounds, as well as a provision intended to help inmates with drug-related treatment after they leave jail.
A new statewide law requires most grocery, retail, and convenience stores in Colorado to charge 10 cents for every plastic or paper bag shoppers use. While this has been de rigueur in many municipalities for quite some time, the law is now comprehensive throughout the state.
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Minimum wage employees will celebrate an increase in the state’s minimum wage, now set at $13.65. For employees who earn tips, the minimum will increase to $10.63 an hour. Some municipalities’ minimum wage is higher, for example. In the City of Denver, the new minimum wage for non-tipped employees will increase to $17.29 per hour.
One of the new laws that will touch your pocketbook is the next tax that will be deducted from workers’ paychecks, the purpose of which will be to fund the state’s new paid family and medical leave program, which voters approved in 2020 and will go into effect in 2024. The new law will offer 12 weeks of payments for employees to take time off to have a baby, or to recover from a serious illness. Expect to be dinged 0.45% of your paycheck.
New to Colorado? Forgot, neglected, or simply procrastinated reregistering your car in-state? Oops. There’s a new law for that. New Colorado residents who fail to register their vehicles within 90 days of establishing residency will now have to pay back taxes and other fees.
Looking out for the physically challenged, another new law will now provide that manufacturers of power wheelchairs must now supply wheelchair owners and independent repair shops with parts, tools, and documentation so they can repair wheelchairs at a lower cost.
PERA, the state Public Employees Retirement Association, will get its mojo back as the state will, as the result of HB22-1029, cut the retirement program a check for $225 million. What the payment will do is cover an obligation to the state pension plan from 2020 when budget writers recommended holding off that annual payment in the midst of the pandemic-induced recession.
HB22-1169, which deals with consent, is aimed at the courtroom and is intended to help jurors make decisions in sexual assault cases and help victims understand whether what happened to them legally qualifies as sexual assault.
Under HB22-1224, theft of public benefits becomes its own special crime, impacting those with dirty hands who intentionally misrepresent or withhold a material fact for determining eligibility for food stamps, Medicaid, housing and other public benefits or otherwise attempting to enrich themselves from the public larder.
A bit of an odd bird among the new legislation is a law dealing with confinement standards of egg-laying hens. From now on, every egg layer in Colorado must have at least one square foot of floor space in her cage and by 2025, the law will require all hens to be cage-free.
HB22-1060 provides that campaign contributions to school board candidates, which have been not limited in the past, will be capped at $2,500 from any individual and $25,000 from a small donor committee.
New year, new laws. It’s enough to make your head spin. But as the old saw goes, ignorance of the law is no excuse. So starting right this moment, get that Florida jalopy of yours to the DMV, start faithfully chipping into the new family leave fund, and make sure to give your chickens ample room to stretch.
Rohn K. Robbins is an attorney licensed before the Bars of Colorado and California who practices Of Counsel in the Vail Valley with the law firm of Caplan & Earnest, LLC. His practice areas include business and commercial transactions, real estate and development, family law, custody, and divorce, and civil litigation. Robbins may be reached at 970-926-4461 or at his email address at Rrobbins@CELaw.com. His novels, “How to Raise a Shark (an apocryphal tale),” “The Stone Minder’s Daughter,” and “Why I Walk so Slow” are currently available at fine booksellers.